TikTok launches mental health resources amid Instagram backlash

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TikTok detailed a new effort to provide resources for those struggling with mental health or body image issues on Tuesday, an initiative that was announced as rival platform Instagram faces scrutiny over its potentially negative impact on teenage users.

The video-sharing platform said it would debut wellbeing guides created in collaboration with support groups such as the International Association for Suicide Prevention and the Crisis Text Line. The guides will support those in need and provide tips for people who want to "responsibly engage with someone who may be struggling or in distress," according to TikTok.

Other safety features include the creation of a "Safety Center" guide on eating disorders and a "search intervention" feature that redirects searches for flagged terms, such as #suicide, to the Crisis Text Line helpline. Starting this month, TikTok will implement a "distressing content" warning on videos deemed to be potentially upsetting to users.

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"Following consultation with independent experts, we've also provided our community with content from our creators where they share their personal experiences with mental well-being, information on where to seek support and advice on how to talk to loved ones about these issues," said Tara Wadhwa director of policy at TikTok US.

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TikTok’s announcement come just after National Suicide Prevention Week, which ran from Sept. 5 to Sept. 11. Social media platforms have faced ongoing scrutiny from lawmakers and public health advocates regarding their impact on the self-esteem and mental health of young users.

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Earlier Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook, owner of photo-sharing platform Instagram, commissioned studies in which researchers warned of a harmful impact to teens’ mental health.

"Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse," researchers said in one March 2020 slide presentation obtained by the Journal.

One presentation showed that among teenagers who reported suicidal thoughts, 6% of American users linked their feelings to Instagram.

In response, Instagram said in a blog post that the report "focuses on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light."

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Karina Newton, Instagram’s head of public policy, said the research reviewed in the Journal’s report "demonstrates our commitment to understanding complex and difficult issues young people may struggle with, and informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues."

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